villa wasserfall, windhoek

A landmark historical building built dating back to 1907, the Wasserfall residence is an imposing old German villa that sits proudly on the western slope of a steep hill overlooking the Windhoek CBD. Schanzenhügel, as this area was referred to at the time, was known for its beautiful villas by well-known architect/builder Otto Busch. Today it is a historical district containing more than 20 listed buildings distinguished by its vulnerable residential scale and use patterns.

The only remaining examples of their kind in the capital today, the old German villas represent a building type quite distinct from other dwellings of the same era. Their architectural individuality lies in attributes such as prominent location, meticulous proportioning, and a distinctive composition of steep roofs, gable, domed tower and bay window. With their masculine ornamentation and bold colours, the well-proportioned façades often belie the actual plan arrangement behind.

Close proximity to the city, growing land values, and the apathetic attitude of the powers that be to Namibia’s colonial heritage collectively poses a severe threat to the preservation of these old villas. The area is being transformed at an alarming rate and staving off insensitive development is an ongoing battle.

When acquired in 1993, Villa Wasserfall had been subdivided into three separate living units and required substantial intervention. The process of alteration and restoration has continued ever since. Shutters and sun control devices were added to deal with the problematic west orientation. The introverted and somewhat claustrophobic plan of the house was rearranged and opened up with external living areas added to link it to the garden.

Perhaps the most endearing feature of the house is the approach to the front door, an impressive pathway and series of stairs rising some 16 meter from the bottom of the site. The minimal all-white interior of the house with its high ceilings forms a neutral backdrop for an eclectic combination of old and new.

A subsequent refurbishment of the house included the application of a second skin to the roof to create a ventilated structure, the installation of a solar water-heating system, and the creation of a spacious master bedroom suite in the hitherto unutilised loft.